USCIS Provides Flexibility During Pandemic to Physicians Seeking Conrad 30 Waivers28 May 2020
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued a policy memorandum containing some limited changes for certain foreign medical graduates during the COVID-19 national emergency. The new policy provides some relief from adverse immigration consequences to international medical graduates working in the U.S. in H1B status, who are completing a three-year service obligation pursuant to a Conrad 30 waiver.
Background on Conrad 30 Waivers
Ordinarily, international medical graduates receiving Conrad 30 waivers of the J-1 home residency requirement must work full time in H1B status for three years in federally designated health professional shortage areas and/or medically underserved areas / populations. Failure to do so reinstitutes the J-1 home residency requirement and requires the international medical graduate to depart the United States and reside in their home country or country of last permanent residence for two years before applying for an H1B visa or permanent residency in the United States.
Flexibility Provided by New Policy Memo
The new USCIS policy provides relief to those international medical graduates who suffer a temporary interruption in full-time work due to consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. If the individual’s job is interrupted due to reasons such as quarantine, illness, or travel restrictions, this will not result in the J-1 home residency requirements being re-imposed.
Additionally, the memo provides a new limited flexibility to permit international medical graduates to provide telehealth medical services during the pandemic. Generally, the H1B petition is job, employer, and location specific. Any material change in these circumstances may require an amended H1B petition. During the pandemic, physicians, like other professionals under state and local stay at home orders, have been required to adjust how they provide their services, and telehealth has therefore become a necessity. However, for H1B workers, this can raise concerns about maintenance of status.
The new policy memo permits international medical graduates employed by an interested government agency or fulfilling a three-year H1B service obligation, pursuant to a Conrad 30 waiver, to provide telehealth medical services.
The United States is fortunate to have a population of foreign national physicians during this global crisis. All measures should be taken by the USCIS to ensure that these doctors may remain in the U.S. and continue saving lives without having to worry about creating long-term immigration problems for themselves. Physicians who have questions about this, or other U.S. immigration matters, may contact the Murthy Law Firm at Doctors@murthy.com.
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